Catch-22

or catch-22

[kach-twen-tee-too]

noun, plural Catch-22's, Catch-22s.

a frustrating situation in which one is trapped by contradictory regulations or conditions.
any illogical or paradoxical problem or situation; dilemma.
a condition, regulation, etc., preventing the resolution of a problem or situation; catch.

Origin of Catch-22

from a military regulation in a novel of the same name (1961) by U.S. novelist Joseph Heller (born 1923)

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for catch-22


British Dictionary definitions for catch-22

catch-22

noun

a situation in which a person is frustrated by a paradoxical rule or set of circumstances that preclude any attempt to escape from them
a situation in which any move that a person can make will lead to trouble

Word Origin for catch-22

C20: from the title of a novel (1961) by the US writer J. Heller (1923–99)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for catch-22

Catch-22

n.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for catch-22

Catch-22

(1961) A war novel by the American author Joseph Heller. “Catch-22” is a provision in army regulations; it stipulates that a soldier's request to be relieved from active duty can be accepted only if he is mentally unfit to fight. Any soldier, however, who has the sense to ask to be spared the horrors of war is obviously mentally sound, and therefore must stay to fight.

Note

Figuratively, a “catch-22” is any absurd arrangement that puts a person in a double bind: for example, a person can't get a job without experience, but can't get experience without a job.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with catch-22

Catch-22

A no-win dilemma or paradox, similar to damned if I do, damned if I don't. For example, You can't get a job without experience, but you can't get experience unless you have a job—it's Catch-22. The term gained currency as the title of a 1961 war novel by Joseph Heller, who referred to an Air Force rule whereby a pilot continuing to fly combat missions without asking for relief is regarded as insane, but is considered sane enough to continue flying if he does make such a request.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.